Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Lowe helping Umaga share the load

Graham Lowe has been assisting the Blues' coaching staff ahead of this season. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Graham Lowe has been assisting the Blues' coaching staff ahead of this season. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Graham Lowe, a high-profile former rugby league coach and administrator, is helping Tana Umaga and the Blues on an unofficial basis this season and is already excited with what he has seen.

The 69-year-old, who has watched the Blues train at least twice this week as they prepare for their season-opener against the Highlanders at Eden Park on Friday, coached the Kiwis and Queensland State of Origin team in the 1980s and 90s, and is a former Manly Sea Eagles chief executive who appears to have clicked with Umaga.

"He's got a really exciting and positive view about how the game should be played," Lowe said. "It's fantastic watching him come along."

Lowe met Umaga properly when he made a presentation to Counties rugby club coaches last year and has kept in touch since. He also recently helped out in Northland, a continuation of his drive to help players get the best out of themselves, not matter the code or sport. "Once you're a coach you're always a coach," he said. "The fire never goes out."

Umaga, a former All Black in his first year as a Super Rugby head coach, is happy to take advice from anyone.

"I'm a big believer that you never stop learning in this game and you don't have to stay within the game to learn about it," Umaga said. [Lowe has a lot] of expertise and knowledge and he's more than willing to help.

"He's been great. The players know him and he's been adding a few tidbits here and there. He's a wealth of knowledge and not just for myself but for us coaches and hopefully for our players coming through."

The days of the rugby codes treating each other as enemies are long over and high-level coaches are increasingly sharing information between sports.

New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has been invited into the All Blacks inner sanctum several times by coach Steve Hansen and New Zealand Super Rugby coaches often travel to the USA and Australia in the off season to check on other professional sports' facilities and methods.

Many are more comfortable sharing secrets with their counterparts from other sports because they know they won't be used to help the opposition.

For Lowe, when it all boils down there is little difference between league and rugby.

"I see it just as footy," he said. "It's all man management. Both codes have players with their skills and as long as time goes on there will be a debate about which is better but by and large if you watched the Blues [training] out there today there's no difference to what NRL players do.

"I want Tana to do well and I want the Blues to do well. I think Auckland needs the Blues to do well and I enjoy watching young guys going through their paces. You'd have to have ice in your veins not to sense the energy that was down there today. And that doesn't just happen, it takes work to get to that stage and that's what Tana has done."

- NZ Herald

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